We’re at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity where we speak with Benoit Beaufils, Founding Partner of Innate Motion. He shares his vision on Brand Activism and how they apply it in their business. He explains the essentials of sustainable business, based on collaboration.
“Wanneer we onszelf openstellen voor verandering en verandering omarmen… kunnen we groeien en vooruitgaan.”
Wicky is zelf een toonbeeld van verandering. Vanaf haar jonge jaren speelt verandering een grote rol in haar leven, zeker niet altijd gewenst. Toch is het haar gelukt verandering als iets goeds te zien.
Uiteraard is verandering iets wat in ieders leven voorkomt, een leven zonder verandering is ondenkbaar. En toch is verandering, of dat nou prive of zakelijk is, iets waar de meeste mensen moeite mee hebben.
Net zoals Wicky dat in haar leven heeft ervaren. Echter, zij heeft deze trend voor zichzelf weten te doorbreken. Dat heeft haar zoveel kracht en positiviteit gegeven, dat ze heeft besloten zich als professional helemaal te richten op veranderingsprocessen, wie kan dat immers beter dan een ervaringsdeskundige?
En hoe mooi is het om een persoonlijke, positieve ervaring door te geven aan anderen die er ook baat bij kunnen hebben?
Op welk moment in je leven heb je deze doorbraak meegemaakt?
Ik was 21 toen mijn vader plotseling overleed en die gebeurtenis heeft er eigenlijk voor gezorgd dat zo’n beetje alles in mijn leven ging veranderen.
Ik wist dat ik zelf drastische veranderingen op allerlei gebied in gang zou moeten zetten om mijn leven weer op de rit te krijgen. Omdat ik het gevoel had dat het me alleen niet zou lukken, heb ik veel gesprekken gevoerd met mensen om me heen die ik volledig vertrouwde en die het beste met me voor hadden.
Door deze gesprekken werd alles me een stuk duidelijker.
Het is gek, maar op het moment dat je dingen uitspreekt, worden ze waar.
Door ‘naar binnen’ te kijken kwam ik langzaamaan tot inzicht en leerde ik om een verandering te zien als een moment om verder te komen, in plaats van me ertegen te verzetten.
De beslissingen die ik op dat moment nam, waren niet makkelijk voor me.
Ik besloot een tijdje weg te gaan, even een andere omgeving.
Zo kwam ik in het buitenland terecht waar ik een super leerzame tijd heb gehad.
Ik genoot meer en meer van het ‘anders’ en kwam los van mijn vastgeroeste overtuigingen.
En na je terugkeer naar Nederland, ben je je visie gaan verwezenlijken.
Een aantal jaren na de momenten van inzicht had ik meer ervaring opgedaan met deze ‘techniek’ – de techniek van een verandering te zien als een moment om verder te komen.
Ik werd van ‘onbewust bekwaam’ – ‘bewust bekwaam’. Vandaag de dag voel ik aan wanneer ik deze techniek moet toepassen.
Doordat ik merkte dat verandering vooruitgang betekende in mijn leven, heb ik dit omarmen tot een ware kunst verheven. Ik noem dit ‘wendbaarheid’.
Ik werkte inmiddels al verschillende jaren bij IKEA en gedurende die periode heb ik ervaren hoe verzet tegen verandering vanuit medewerkers een vertragende, en in sommige gevallen zelfs een verlammende werking kan hebben op de vooruitgang van het bedrijf.
Omdat ik vanuit mijn eigen levenservaring weet hoe ik verandering naar iets positiefs kan omkeren, ben ik me daar professioneel ook meer en meer op gaan toeleggen.
Ik heb binnen IKEA de kansen gecreëerd, gekregen, en aangegrepen om mezelf volledig te ontwikkelen tot ‘change leader’.
Ik wilde mijn ervaring en de bijbehorende wendbaarheid graag overbrengen aan anderen. Ik help mensen de positieve kant van veranderingen te zien en leer ze het veranderingsproces te gebruiken om te groeien.
In de afgelopen jaren heb ik mensen en teams onder andere binnen IKEA geholpen om te gaan met veranderingen. Ik heb een methodologie ontwikkeld die ik toepas om de beoogde resultaten te bereiken.
Marketing is full of buzzwords and today’s hottest include ‘content’, swiftly followed by ‘storytelling’. In fact, so pervasive are both words they could become almost meaningless.
Brands talk as if content has become a strategy, a creative idea or even a communications channel – too often clients ask us to “raise awareness through content, so let’s get some content out there”. Traditionally storytelling would take place around campfires or at children’s bedtime, now brands use it to try and convince consumers to buy products.
Vast swathes of individuals are now bitten by the “create and share” bug via countless platforms not restricted to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, G+, WordPress et al.
But too many brands are confused about how content will help them deliver business performance. To simply make information available will not boost awareness, reinforce or alter a perception problem.
People need to learn from this. In the same way that I check out reviews of products or services before I buy, I Google a person who is new to me before I do business, meet or interview them.
If they are successful at “content marketing” I can form an opinion more quickly, understand their vision or motivation. Conversely, if they haven’t paid attention to their online profile then I’ll question why.
First impressions count – verbal and non-verbal. But add online to the list and you get a digital trinity, which in today’s reputation economy means people, like the brands, have to be authentic and relevant to their audience.
For your online reputation to reflect your real-world persona it’s critical to create content, but don’t do it for the sake of it or because it’s fashionable. Before you start, there are four questions to ask yourself:
What’s your reason for talking and sharing? In the digital world your content competes with professional publishers, brands and your peers, all trying to own a fraction of a digital screen.
Unless you have something of real value to say, you’re just creating more noise and should stop now. At the heart of the ‘why’ question is the need to establish a value exchange, which gives you a reason to exist and ensures your content is relevant to the target consumer.
You need to understand where your content should live: Storify, Slideshare, YouTube, Vine or a combination of platforms. The precise location will depend on the target audiences’ tastes and habits – it’s no good putting your content on Pinterest, if your target is not there.
If you decide to publish on multiple platforms, all of them should be interrelated, allowing traffic and content (in the appropriate form for each platform) to move between them.
Getting your audience to visit these destinations will then require investment in paid, owned and earned media messages. There is so much content out there that a “build it and they will come” approach rarely works.
[#3 ask what you want to achieve]
We live in a world of KPIs and performance targets so before you invest in content, be clear how “great content” will help you.
Clearly define what success looks like. This could be impressions and likes – a good first step to benchmarking performance – but ultimately link it with broader goals.
If you want to get really serious, advanced analytics will help you map out a wider range of metrics and enable you to segment who you want to engage with based on your targets.
This will ensure you understand how aspects like language, word count, number of images and their position within the text, content topic, and others perform differently with different consumer segments.
[#4 do it all again]
Once is never enough and your online reputation – like all marketing – works best when you test, learn and repeat.
The more sophisticated your measurement strategy, the more you will learn from each piece of content you post and how your audience responds.
Each insight will help you make the next piece of content better and more effective, not just in terms of the way it is received, but also whether your distribution is as effective as it can be.
Great content is incredibly powerful to enhance an online reputation, but if you haven’t asked yourself these questions then the odds are that your efforts will be unsuccessful.
A personal brand, like a product brand, is not built overnight but with the above building blocks you’ll be more effective, faster.
Mark Terry-Lush is UK curator for CoolBrands and CoolBrands People. He is partner and co-founder of Honey, an international PR, seeding and social content agency.
Tags: Mark Terry-Lush, Meeting Mark Terry-Lush, Meeting Mark Terry, Personal Branding, CoolBrands People, CoolBrands #CoolBrands, Honey, four steps to personal branding success, #MarkTerryLush, #CoolBrandsPeople, #CoolBrands
I met Jonathan in 2008… we met outside London, at the Chartered Institute of Marketing where we did a CoolBrands storytelling presentation for his students.
I remember Jonathan’s approach towards brand psychology:
“For me,” he said, “brand psychology is something that is far from just skin-deep. It involves all aspects of the consumer/supplier relationship that creates the total brand experience. This embraces employees, channel partners, promotions, sales and service. ”
We stayed in touch since. Jonathan wrote several articles for our CoolBrands The Guru Book and we exchanged the books we published during the years. Among his were ‘The Brand Messiah’ and ‘Soul Traders’, interesting and critical view points on brands and the corporate world we live in today.
A few weeks ago, Jonathan contacted me on Skype… “I have a new book, ‘Brand Psychology’. It’s a 440 pager…lots of content… great content! I will send you a copy.”
By the way, Jonathan’s publisher offers our readers a 20% discount on the book, using the code: MKTBPA on www.koganpage.com
“Can you tell me in short what the book is all about?” I ask.
“It is about things we see and experience everyday”, Jonathan replied. “I started asking questions, like:
– Why do we trust some brands more than others?
– How important is integrity for a brand’s survival?
– How can brand confidence be rebuilt during a crisis?”
“And then, how did you come up with insights and answers?” I ask.
“By using both new and classic insights from social psychology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, I try to reveal the hidden processes behind why certain brands command our loyalty, trust and – most importantly – disposable income.
“Based on my extensive experience in the area of reputation management, I take my readers on a tour of the corporate, political, and personal brands whose understanding of consumer psychology has either built or broken them.”
“For those of us who don’t have the time to read 400 pages, how do we get the insights of your new book?” I ask.
“In a very small nutshell, throughout ‘Brand Psychology’ you’ll find case studies, practical insights and sound academic theories that will help you build brand reputations noted for the ability to occupy the perfect consumer ‘mind-space’.”
“And if we have a bit more time?” I ask.
“We created a short video to explain the concept of what I am talking about in the book. And I will tour the world with talks about the subjects of Consumer Perceptions and Corporate Reputation.”
I’m in the heart of Rio de Janeiro in Ipanema and today I’m catching up with Roberto Stern, CEO and creative director for H.Stern, one of the world’s most innovative jewellers. I met Roberto a few years ago and have become a great fan not only of his work, but also of his collaborative approach to design.
We’re sitting on a shady terrace on the high-end Rua Garcia d’Avila and we’ve been chatting about Roberto’s work and my travels as we watch the trendy Cariocas amble by. “I’ve been wondering: where does your drive and creativity come from?” I ask Roberto as we order our second cafezinho.
“I think I get it from my dad. The only way he could express himself was to do things differently, and I have the same passion.”
“I see, so your dad also had the urge to break the mould and take a new approach to the jewellery business.”
“Definitely,” says Roberto. “He was an innovator from the start. Before him the world of top-quality jewellery was quite closed, but he opened up our doors to the public to show off our craftsmanship. He was also the first jeweller in Brazil to use Brazilian gemstones like aquamarines, amethysts, topaz, citrines and tourmalines. Without his vision, these stones might well still just be the domain of stone collectors. Nowadays, they are used in jewellery around the world and are known as Brazilian coloured stones. We created a new demand.”
“And you continued this drive for innovation when you took over in the 1990s.”
“I got into design because I wanted to do things that people thought were impossible. I am originally an economist, which helps me with my function as CEO, but I also had this incredible desire to create shocking, imperfect, organic design. At the same time, I wanted to make the brand attractive to all generations and so I transformed the business into a house of design.”
“What does that mean in practice though? How has the business changed?”
“In the past traditional artisan shops catered to a select group of local consumers. In today’s globalized world consumers everywhere want the same thing: style. They are looking for creativity, simplicity and straight elegant lines. Being ostentatious is out.
“It’s not easy to stay on the cutting edge but we are out there anticipating trends, fashion and behaviour. I am constantly exploring new design concepts and developing new techniques – for example recently I have been working with new gemstone cutting and polishing techniques.
“You’ve also become renowned for your collaborative projects and for seeking inspiration in the arts, architecture, music and fashion.”
“That’s right. We collaborated with Oskar Metsavaht who designed a watch for us, and we have just launched a unique Oscar Niemeyer line inspired by the curves he uses in his architectural designs. After our coffee, we’ll visit our boutique…I have a feeling there are some pieces you’re going to love in the new Niemeyer collection!”
I’m in the Colombian capital Bogotá where I’m meeting Jose Miguel Sokoloff, a man who is using his creative genius to help end the guerilla war that has been raging in his home country for decades. Jose is the president of the Lowe Global Creative Council and he is the co-chairman and CCO at Lowe SSP3 Colombia.
Jose and I are sitting at the trendy Juan Valdez Café in La Candelaria in downtown Bogotá and he is telling me about his work with the Ministry of Defence and his hope of one day seeing Colombia at peace. “I am in my 50s now, and I have never known peace in my country. Even though the war mainly takes place in the jungle, it affects everyone. I can’t travel in about one third of the country if I want to stay safe.”
“That must be really frustrating,” I say.
“It is,” says Jose. “It makes me sad. Peace is what I want, for myself and for my four children. And that is what I am trying to do now. I am trying to change things.”
“So tell me more about your work with the Ministry of Defence. How does a creative agency get to work with the military?”
“It’s been a very interesting experience,” says Jose. “The ministry asked us to work with them to develop communications campaigns to reach out to the guerrillas.”
“That’s interesting,” I say. “Communication as a pressure tool… And does it work?”
“I think we can definitely help,” says Jose. “Every saved life is a victory. We tried to find common ground with the guerrillas – try to find what touches them. In the end, we have found that rational arguments don’t work. We have to appeal to emotions.”
“Can you give an example of one of the campaigns?”
“Well for example, last year we designed a Christmas campaign, ‘Operation Bethlehem’, to encourage guerrillas to demobilize and return to their families. The message was incredibly powerful.
“We installed massive spotlights in urban centres and shone them up into the sky. At the same time, the Colombian army created paths of light, small fluorescent devices that they scattered along routes out of the jungle back to the urban centres.
“The slogan said: “Guerrilla, this Christmas follow the light, it will guide you to find your family and freedom. Demobilize. At Christmas everything is possible.”
“That sounds incredible. What has been the outcome of these campaigns?”
“I believe there are impacts on several levels.” Jose says. “We have brought back the focus to the conflict, both internally within Colombia and internationally. It’s back on the international agenda. Everyone involved – both sides – are in the picture again.
“This has strengthened my conviction that we are heading in the right direction and that these kind of campaigns make people stop and think. I desperately hope that a solution can be found soon, so that we can finally enjoy peace.”
“That would be a confirmation to all that ideas and communication can still change the world,” I say.
“Indeed,” Jose says. “And it would encourage us and hopefully many others to continue using the power of communication for the good!”
Tags: #CoolBrands, #CoolBrandsPeople, #JoseMiguelSokoloff, CoolBrands People, Jose Miguel, Jose Miguel Sokoloff, JMS, meeting Jose Miguel in Bogota, Meeting JMS, #Reputation, Global CCO Lowe, partner of Lowe-SSP3 Bogota
I’m at the Cannes Lions Festival and the founders of Creative Social Daniele Fiandaca and Mark Chalmers have invited me to the Creative Social lunch at L’Ecrin Beach to celebrate Creative Social’s 10-year anniversary.
Daniele opens the lunch with a short speech in which he reminisces about the early days at Creative Social. “And here we are today, with a network of over 300 socials, lots of partners, events that we have organized, knowledge that we have shared! I’m proud of what we have achieved,” he says as he raises his glass.
Back in 2004, Daniele and Mark founded Creative Social as a network of creative directors and business owners. Since then they’ve grown to be the most influential network in the creative industry. They organize exclusive events – CS Global Events – around the world on different themes, from Amsterdam to Shanghai and from Beirut to São Paulo.
After the toast Daniele also thanks Amanda Steimberg, Director of Disney Media and partnerships at the Walt Disney Company, who was one of the first to see the Creative Social’s value for brands when she was at Microsoft.
After lunch, I sit down with the two founders and ask them what Creative Social is to them.
“We see Creative Social as a platform for progression for creatives and the creative industry,” says Daniele. “It is about people getting together and getting inspired and inspiring other people.
“I think one of the reasons people who have remained involved with Creative Social are successful is that Creative Social encourages the exchange of cultural insight and influences, which in turn brings real authenticity to our members’ work. And authenticity is crucial for brands as well as agencies today.”
“The CS Global events have become a crucial part of the Creative Social philosophy – what makes these events so unique?” I ask.
“The CS Global events are a win-win for brands and members,” says Daniele. “They are one- to two day-events that we organize twice a year, targeting a small group of 40 senior creatives from the CS collective. The aim is to share, inspire and discuss any issues raised by participants.”
“Basically you get to be creative with competitors at the very highest level,” says Mark. “It’s like a beta testing space for creative ideas…”
“And so what’s next?” I ask. “After 10 years of Creative Social where do we go from here?”
“Well none of us know what the future is but what we do know is that we can’t conquer it individually,” says Mark. “With Creative Social we have created here an environment of collaboration and as long as we keep sparking off each other, coming together and exchanging influences, we can make that future together.”
“More concretely,” says Daniele, “we’re introducing quite a few new initiatives. For example, Creative Social at home; smaller sessions of no more than 25 people being entertained by a Social in the intimate setting of their own home. And we are launching our new book, Hacker, Maker, Teacher, Thief: Advertising’s next generation. It is important for us that we keep things fresh because we believe that after 10 years, you need to ignite new sparks.”
My week in Cannes has been fascinating, inspirational, thought-provoking and super busy. I’ve attended debates, keynote speeches, creative workshops and met up with many people from our global network.
With the festival wrapping up today I’ve managed to catch the festival’s CEO Phil Thomas for another quick coffee to ask him about his impressions of this year’s event. “When you look back over the last few days, what’s your main personal take-out from Cannes 2014?” I ask as we find a table on a shady terrace.
“I saw that this is a baffling, fascinating, multi-national, multi-cultural industry and again, I realized what an honour it is to be able to host this festival.”
“What struck you most about the Cannes 2014?” I ask.
Phil pauses for a moment, then says: “This year it became impossible to define creativity, or rather it has become impossible to say who is creative, who owns the right to ‘be’ creative, and where clients and media and technology fit in.”
“What do you mean exactly?”
“Well these days everyone is coming up with creative solutions: technologists, brands, artists. In the past it felt like creative agencies had exclusive ownership over ‘creativity’. Now everyone agrees that everyone can add creative solutions.”
“I was also struck by the rise of branded content,” I say.
“Yes, that’s certainly something we see,” says Phil. “The blurring of conventional distinctions between what constitutes advertising and what constitutes entertainment. It’s essentially a fusion of the two into one product intended to be distributed as entertainment content, albeit with a highly branded quality.”
“Do you expect that trend to grow over the coming years?” I ask.
“Definitely,” says Phil. “Branded content and entertainment are exploding out of all proportion, from advertorials in newspapers to full-blown cinema-released movies and lots of web TV. We only launched this category three years ago but I think it will become one of the most important categories at Cannes, if it hasn’t already.”
As we ask for the bill, I ask Phil a final question. “In your view, what’s the key brand value of the Cannes Lions Festival?”
“That’s a good question,” he says with a smile. “I would say creativity. Because that’s what makes the difference. In the end most brands and products are alike, but it’s their creativity that makes them stand out. And that’s my mission: to facilitate companies and individuals to celebrate creativity.”
“So you’re not retiring yet then?”
Phil laughs. “No way! After seven years I am still passionate about my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!”
Tags: #CBPeople, #CoolBrands, #CoolBrandsPeople, #PhilThomas, #PhilipThomas, CoolBrands, #CannesLions, Cannes Lions Festival, Phil Thomas CEO of the Cannes Lions, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, CoolBrands Online Personal Reputation, Cannes LionHeart, Phil Thomas, Thomas, Phil, meeting Phil Thomas, meeting Philip Thomas #Reputation #OnlineReputation
“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”
These are the words of John Cage, a pioneering 20th Century American composer. Eric believes this philosophy is the foundation of any innovative organization.
I am meeting with Eric at Stanford where he did a Knight Fellowship in the 2013-14 academic year, 16 years after graduating from Stanford in 1997. Read here how happy he felt with this chance.
He is the founder of the startup Evrybit, a mobile-first platform for multimedia and collaborative storytelling on smartphones.
I am talking to him about how he got here and where he is going from here.
“I come from a family of barbers. If the natural order of the universe meant following in the footsteps of forebears, I would have been Edward Scissorhands.”
“However, you changed the natural order,” I say.
“I sure did. As a third-generation Mexican-American, I had different aspirations: I wanted to graduate from a four-year university and play free safety in the NFL. Considering no one in my family had ever finished community college, playing pro football seemed as realistic as earning a degree.
“Dreaming big is in my DNA. Any time anyone said I couldn’t do something, I believed I could even more.”
“You did not make it to the NFL, did you?” I ask.
“No indeed. I broke my neck playing freshman football in high school. The doctor said my football career was over. The words were a punch to the gut. My dream of NFL glory was dead. All of a sudden, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. For the first time, I felt powerless.”
“That must have been tough, then what did you do?”
“After some years of not knowing what I wanted, I got into Stanford. I walked on to the baseball team. I graduated with a degree in English. Even after graduating, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
“In the spring of 2000, I left Los Angeles with a one-way train ticket to Seattle. I had no idea I was embarking on a journalism career. I was simply searching for a new beginning.”
“And?” I ask.
“The move paid off.
“I hadn’t been able to define what I wanted to be because the position didn’t exist. The Internet wasn’t part of mainstream culture. Being a digital editor was inconceivable. Once the Web became viable, I knew I wanted to work online. Soon after arriving in Seattle, I landed my first job in journalism as an assistant editor at ESPN.com in July 2000.
“I have spent the past 15 years building on my foundations of journalism and learning how to make smart content accessible. I was the founding editor of New England Sports Network’s website (NESN.com) in 2008 and have played a part in producing thousands of pieces of content.”
“That must have been quite a learning curve, what were your main take-outs?” I ask.
“Being the first to do anything is a risk, but the payoff for being a leader is great. I have always preferred being bold.
“I have learned to seize opportunities as they present themselves. I viewed the Knight Fellowship at Stanford as another life-changing opportunity.
“The future possibilities inspire me. Before I’m through with my career, I want to make a tangible contribution to journalism beyond sports.”
“How do you see the role of journalism in the future?” I ask.
“I believe journalism can reshape the world. My entire career has been spent on the Internet. I have evolved with online media coverage as the Web has grown in power, influence and wealth. I understand the way the digital world works and want to lead another advance in journalism.
“During the Stanford Knight Fellowship, I transitioned to media entrepreneurship as the founder and CEO of Evrybit, and I am now focused on innovative storytelling.
“I developed a working prototype of this mobile-first publishing system, Evrybit, while exploring how to create sustainable journalism, with a focus on transmedia storytelling, community journalism and professionalizing crowdsourcing.”
“How would you describe Evrybit in one sentence?”
“Evrybit is a mobile-first publishing platform that streamlines live reporting, collaborative storytelling and multimedia production on smartphones.
“This was the idea when I came to the fellowship, determined to make it a reality, and I worked to turn the concept into a prototype.
“Following the Knight Fellowship, I moved to Santa Monica, where I reside with my wife and three young children. I’m excited to be part of the burgeoning Los Angeles tech startup ecosystem.
“I now have a team of developers in the U.S., Bolivia and Chile working on Evrybit, which we began alpha testing in the spring of 2014. We began private beta testing last summer with professional news organizations and individual athletes and have created dozens of stories over the past six months. We continue to ramp up product development and are working to refine Evrybit.
“And what are the next steps?” I ask.
“We plan to launch our minimum viable product (MVP) in Spring 2015. Our goal is to revolutionize the way stories are told and turn Evrybit into a successful business.
“I’m determined to make it easier for anyone with a smartphone to create and share multimedia coverage of events, from a child’s birthday party to a major, breaking news story. Our mission is to better inform the world.”
“I’m no longer afraid of failing. My biggest fear now is not succeeding enough.”
Rosie Stancer is preparing to become the first female to walk solo to the North Pole. In 2003 she became the second British woman to walk alone to the South Pole without any support or resupplies; smashing the previous speed records. She wants to be the first woman in the world to have conquered both geographic poles alone.
Driving towards a rugby field in Colchester, I see in the distance a petite female figure in a harness; she appears to be pulling along a Mitsubushi truck. As I draw nearer I notice a military-looking man, shouting at her and pointing to an adjacent running track where tractor and lorry tyres are scattered.
This is the training ground of Rosie Stancer, affectionately known as The Tinkernator due to her petite frame and indestructible, machine-like determination.
I’m no giant but I seem to tower over the 5’3” middle aged polar explorer; who after lifting and flipping a tractor tyre as though tossing a bouquet at a wedding, thrusts a welcoming hand towards me.
“Rosie?” I ask.
“Welcome to my arctic playground” she laughs.
We head for the grandstand and a seat and I ask why she wants to do such a crazy thing. After all, she’s a mother, a wife, and could die on the ice.
“Because it’s important, there is much to learn and many can benefit. I don’t believe in boundaries either in my head or imposed by others. The expedition will leave a legacy of inspiration and learning. It will help lift the lid off the boxes people allow themselves to get trapped in and encourage them to look out and beyond their immediate confines.”
Rosie, how do you face danger and overcome fear? “Deep inner reserves, we all have it.” She replies without blinking. “You have to be able to want it and access that wealth of strength. The key is passion and a belief in your end goal. That belief can empower anyone.”
Can you see a parallel between the qualities and values you possess and what women need to succeed in other male dominated roles?
“Yes, I am trespassing in a male territory one normally associates with brute strength, height and beards. Yes, I am small woman and a minority in the polar expedition world.”
“I’ve seen too many expeditions fail because of an all-conquering male, military approach which can be as blinkering as it is dangerous.”
“In a polar region it is important not to forget the skills women are most commonly known for; for example multitasking, flexibility and intuition. The ability to listen, even as a leader; is also a vital skill.”
What drives you to succeed?
“It’s what I am passionate about and a lot of the expedition is driven by physical and psychological curiosity. I carry our research for Essex University and also report back on the effects of climate change. I am not a scientist nor a politician; I am there as a vehicle to do the research which few others can in such an extreme environment.”
How do you fund such an expedition?
“Sponsors, and I never have enough. There are a handful of companies and brands that recognise that what we’re doing is important and will make a difference. My sponsors will be part of history and so recognise they too will make an impact and leave an imprint by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Do you have a message to women generally?
“Do what you are passionate about, despite any fear of failure – that’s what courage is all about. What is failure? Everyone knows you learn more from mistakes than successes. Think about it, Sir Ernest Shackleton never made it to a pole, can he be described as a failure? No, why not? Because of the legacy he left.”
“Hi, I’m John. Welcome to my home!” he says with a big smile as we enter the John Erdos Showroom at Dempsey Hill. As he takes us through the showroom, he talks enthusiastically about the different pieces of furniture on display – you can see that he’s in his element here, full of energy and passion for the place.
Formerly the site of a British army barracks, Dempsey Hill is an up-and-coming part of Singapore, with trendy bars and restaurants, art galleries, antique stores and farmers markets. The area, which is very green, is dotted with refurbished colonial buildings, which give it an extra cool edge.
John Erdos already settled here 20 years ago. He had gone to Singapore as a twenty-something-year-old New Yorker, looking for a change of scenery. Back home he’d been working for an agency, but when an opportunity presented itself in Singapore, he took it, thinking it would be fun for a few years.
But now we’re in 2014 and he’s still here. “So what happened?” I ask John.
“Well, when I got here I wanted to decorate my home, but I didn’t really find what I was looking for. After some research, I ended up in Indonesia,” he tells us as we sit down on a set of sofas. “There I found everything I was looking for and more, so I bought a whole container’s worth of goods and had it shipped to Singapore. It turned out to be more than I needed, so I started hosting parties in my home where I sold the things I didn’t need. I served the wine, sold stuff at the same time and had a great time doing it! So I decided to go back to Indonesia and buy another container load, and another after that. One thing led to the next: first I only bought stuff, but I soon started finding that I wanted other things too, which I couldn’t find. So I started designing things myself and having them made in Indonesia, which soon led to the creation of a dedicated design atelier and workshop. And before I knew it, John Erdos had been created!”
“Ok,” I say, “so what’s the idea behind your designs though?”
“It’s pretty simple,” says John. “I design what I like, things I would want in my own home, and sell it.”
“And who is your main target audience?”
“Well, initially I sold mainly to friends and friends of friends,” says John. “Now we have this showroom here in Dempsey Hill, but it still feels like home really. I’m here every day, among my own stuff. I love it!”
“It really does feel very cosy, not at all like a store,” I say. “But what makes your brand different?”
“That’s a hard question,” says John. “I think it’s my approach to furniture… You know, I’m not a designer, I didn’t go to art school – my background lies in marketing and finance. So I approach furniture in a very personal way and there’s no formal training that gets in the way. I also make my designs on tracing paper, not on AutoCAD – that’s pretty rare these days.”
“And what about your materials? Where do you source them?” I ask. “We hear a lot about fair trade and sustainability as well as the use of natural materials and the importance of decent working conditions, also increasingly in the luxury brand sector. How do you deal with this?”
“I’ve been producing in Indonesia right from the beginning: we have an atelier and a workshop. We only use reclaimed teak wood for our designs. We don’t chop down any trees; instead we buy up used wood from demolished buildings. Most of our employees have been with us for a long time. We take good care of them: we give them an education, proper salaries… To me this is a given: I think it’s normal and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That sounds like my kind of brand,” says Anouk. “Considering the triple bottom line of People Planet Profit, producing very cool furniture and creating this showroom, where the brand can be fully experienced.”
“Thanks!” says John, “good to hear you like it!”
“But hang on,” I say, “I want to understand the brand better: so you’re an American, you came to Singapore for a few years, stuck around, built a successful brand… but is John Erdos a Singaporean brand or a US brand?”
“Well of course I can’t deny that I’m of American origin, but to be honest I feel more like a citizen of the world, then wanting to belong to any specific nationality. But the John Erdos brand is definitely Singaporean, born and bred! If I hadn’t moved here, the brand probably wouldn’t exist, so I’m very grateful to Singapore for this experience.”
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