The 2 drinks test

Try this out, you might like it!

Based on my loose knowledge of cognitive behaviour therapy, I have devised a simple experiment that I believe, if you follow it, you will find out a little bit more about how your own brain works and gain insight into how others think too. This is not a strict test, you can deviate, you can do it on your own, you can do what you like. It’s meant to make you question yourself, positively and gain empathy for others. It’s probably best if you do it with a friend or even a partner. I designed it to connect people and spread the vibe. It is that simple.

You will need:
A pen
A piece of paper
A friend
A favourite drink

(This is not about shares or likes but you might need to share this privately with one person. Or just do your version on your own)

Agree with your co-tester a time of day to do this, in different locations.

Pick a time – for example At 11:00am, write down short answers to these questions:

1) Right this moment, how do you feel?

2) What is your earliest memory?

3) If you had just one wish, what would it be?

Now, try to forget about these questions. Go and make yourself a coffee, tea, have a cigarette, go for a walk. Take 5 minutes. Relax. Forget about these three questions. Put away the paper.
Do not talk to anyone else about what you are doing. Forget it. Get on with your day.

Then, later that day – agree a second time. For example, at 11:00pm that same day, get out your piece of paper.
Now, ask yourself the same 3 questions and write down 3 new answers, underneath. They may be precisely the same answers or not. Write it anyway, try not to look at what you wrote earlier.

Look at the paper, read it to yourself out loud. Read it again to yourself without saying anything.

Ask yourself, what if anything is different? What connects the answers? Is there anything that comes up that you could describe in one word?
What is that word?

Finally, if you could create your own one question what would that be and who would you ask it to ?


Now the fun bit.

Arrange to meet your friend for a drink this week. Agree a venue, agree a time, agree a place. Agree a time frame. Agree to definitely go somewhere else after 2 drinks at that place.

Take your paper with you.

When it’s your turn to go to the bar or the coffee house whatever, buy your favourite or usual drink. Then buy the friend the same drink as you.
Whilst you both drink that same drink, one of you speaks about the 3 questions. You can let them read your paper or not or just talk. But the other should listen.

For the next round you do it in reverse.
Your mate buys you their favourite drink and this time, you listen.

After 2 drinks. Throw away the paper. Leave the venue.
Go together. But see how long it is before the other talks.

There are no smart answers to this.
There are no right answers.
No right types, no profiles.

What you do next is up to you.

Then at the next 11:00am after your meeting ask yourself this:

How well do I know myself?
How do I feel right this moment?
How will I feel tomorrow?
How do I want to feel tomorrow?
What can I do to feel more like that?



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The paradox of intelligence

The Paradox of Intelligence

I’m more and more noticing a fusion of online and in real life happenings. There is a theory called “Convergence” in which all of our technologies, our networks, will – converge. I subscribe to this, as it’s already happening. We have become reliant on our mobile phones, especially smart phones (convergence friendly) and social media. We create online persona(s), tweet our every thoughts, no matter how banal, and use abbreviations derived from text speak into real life speak. Like some Orwellian newspeak I have heard people use “LOL” out in the real world. I shit you not. We are en mass using Facebook as our browser. Our gateway to the world, the universe, the actual literal universe and our microcosmic pub universe of mates and gossip, sharing that mad video of a cat getting bummed in India (LOL) and that thing when that bloke said something on that show that was well mad to that other bloke. Everyone can be a comedian. Everyone can be an expert. Online.

like this stick for no reason

Einstein was a great advocator of simplicity and our own imagination. Surely all great thinkers in history just want us to think for ourselves. It’s not like you suddenly decide you are smart just because you understand Steven Hawking anymore than you’re intellectual because you play fucking Chess. I believe it’s in the ability to understand things that are probably “TLDR” and then extrapolate that knowledge to your own ends or dreams. If understanding the primary concepts of particle physics, enables you to perform some some sort of transmogrification into a philosophical paradigm then I’d say you’re probably pretty smart and using your own brain. Research is often lots of reading and no more indicative of being a genius than having a good memory. That sounds really clever doesn’t it, but would you be impressed if I had said: Read a book and think about life?

Gone are the days when people stood shoulder to shoulder, quietly trying to rack their brains to remember the name of Geoffrey Palmer’s wife in Butterflies. Now the smartphones are whipped out and the vast vaults of internet knowledge come to the rescue. It was Wendy Craig by the way. I continue to amaze my tech hating friend Charlie, from the local, who refuses to own a mobile, let alone get involved with “The Facebook”. I like to leave my mobile alone, take it old school and use my memory when talking about music or comedy well beyond my years. It’s still nice to know my iphone will bail me out though if it’s a really tough reference.

Anyway, it’s got me thinking, I believe the more advanced we become, the more reliant on technology, the more stupid we make ourselves. We are loosing skills from the real world like: interaction, conversation, behaviour – and frankly, doing things the proper way. It’s become digital, interaction becomes interactivity and experiential. Emulative ways of real and satisfying experiences, algorithmic re-interpretations and demographic suggestions.

Because of all this potential wealth of knowledge, people can misuse it (in my eyes) and become toe dipping pseudo fucking smart-arses. Even if this level of knowledge is that Twiki from Buck Rogers is spelled like so and no ‘e’ at the end. Who fucking cares? I mean if you had that conversation in real life and someone picked you up on that you’d probably punch them wouldn’t you? But, no, the grammar police are there and they’re telling you which way is up and often missing the point. If you’ve ever thought about why isn’t there world peace, you’ve only got to go and look on Facebook and see why. Go and have a look at someone like Deadmau5 or Katie Price. There are people that will create an argument and troll the arse of anything from some famous person saying “Hi. !  ;) LOL”.


What’s interesting for me is, I try my hardest not to get wound up by the online activity that goes on. It’s all part of the tapestry of life. I mean people standing on the back of my shoe on the tube escalator really fucking winds me up. Facebook, just a laugh isn’t it? I actually learned the difference between Buddhism and Hinduism courtesy of my friends conversing on my thread only yesterday. That was interesting. Some people put far too many pictures of their dog up, but hey, could be worse. I treat it like my own personal comedy channel and I’m sure I annoy the hell out of people too. But it’s just Facebook. I’m much more annoying in real life, LOL. Why is it though that we need to be validated by likes and the like? Maybe it’s what I like to call the burger and chips theory. When we’re kids, and we are asked what we’d like to eat at a birthday party, it’s just burger and chips. Everyone else likes burger and chips, and damn it we are part of that tribe. One of the first games we learn to play is “Snap!”. The same card, matching. Recognizing and getting recognition at the same time. It’s no wonder that we often have a strong in built narcissism. We learn to fit, we seek mirrors not other worlds or experiences. Not until we are much older. Some never do. However, surely we are all really looking for the meaning of life, or our life. We look for things to resonate. We are often arrogant enough to think no-one was ever made to feel small or hurt or as in love as we are. Just listen to pretty much any music- they didn’t write that song for you, it was for them! I believe we are often more creative when we are put through diversity. It fuels creativity. It fuels fight, desire, drive. What I’m interested in is a world where people seek inner peace. Where we listen to each other with a view to understanding, not just arguing. Why do we have to always “win” an argument? If you slow down and think about stuff, we are all in the same boat. We are often trying to understand the same thing. The guy with the PhD might know fuck all about who will win the FA Cup as the guy in McDonalds could be a qualified doctor from another country. The beauty of the internet and indeed Facebook is it is often our own microuniverse blog, and if we all just chilled out a bit from time to time and stopped taking ourselves too seriously: could just heal reignite the art of interaction and conversation. Symbiotic behaviours that could really lead to a collective consciousness.

Or we could keep doing selfies and cat videos. Or I could keep thinking I’m funny and getting wound up by, no I’m not going to say his name. Arrogance and self awareness rarely go hand. Or as Frankie says: RELAX.


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The Game of Life

There’s a lot to be said about the playing of games to teach you about life.

Board games or video games. Anyone who grew up in the eighties will know what I mean when I say Jet Set Willy sets you in good stead for getting a seat on the tube. But not just that. The reason I’m more fascinated with virtual games is our relationship with the computer and what it tells us about our own humanity. Firstly, computers are rather arrogantly set up to emulate the human brain. There is memory and processors, languages and artificial intelligence. The latter, intelligence being the golden fleece of computing. What I believe we’re obsessed with is interaction. Now, there are many synonyms we could curve off into a tangent here, so bear with me. When I was 6 years old and was learning a computer language the first thing I did was get the computer to “say hello to me”. Which is what we want, a subservient (perhaps) entity to be friendly and helpful and maybe teach us. However, I bet you the geeks at MIT or Bolton Polytechnic or wherever they may be, when they crack A.I. properly; the first thing THEY will do is build a sexbot so they can fuck it. And so we’re back to interaction. Anyone who plays or even played Chess will know, you only get smarter by playing a smarter opponent. Nowadays we can use the computer to be our opponent. In life, when I’ve done management training weekends it always amused me the microcosms of process and how early on people usually seek out a common enemy. This is paranoid or assumptive at best, but gives you an insight into real life. Exercises, like games, real or virtual are a learning experience. Nothing bad ought happen, even god forbid – you lose.


There is a lot to be said, to take the analogy the other way and treat life like a game. Now, let’s be clear, I’m not advocating you disregard common sense or laws like a fearless mentally ill person or someone who has ingested a copious amount of Tia Maria. I’m saying people who don’t ALWAYS take life too seriously and see the downtime or learning in life – they seem to have more knowledge, and more fun too. The trouble here, is, yep, our old friend “interaction”. People playing the same game at the same time might well enjoy some companionship or help. But there’s quite an annoying thing that happens when you’re trying to complete Crash Bandicoot and some noblord wants to discuss what type of creature it is, wow, and what about that thing that happened last night etc. Another thing I’m interested in is why do we need to always win? Chess is seen as an intellectual game, we spend billions trying to build computers to beat Kaspirov and the like. Strategy. Games, business, life, war. Why do we create real life business strategies from old Chinese War Lords? Again, context plays the part here.

Perhaps the smarter we get, the more we master something, the less we need to win.

The more powerful we are, the quieter we become. Ironic that we have to complete the game to understand the paradox of the journey. So,what are you playing at? Life is but a game.

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The complexity of simplicity

“A picture paints a thousand words” so they say. Could this be an illustration that the visual world is inherently complex and more stimulating than the written form. It also hints at our imagination normally is a mainly visual tool. We think in full colour (unless we were born blind) and we think in vividness unparalleled by our own internal monologue.
Art always struck me as a bit slow. The greeks had worked out the world, plotted it, philosophized it, argued that and philosophized it again, worked out the mathematics of our surroundings. Yet Ucello still couldn’t work out perspective a thousand years later. It was perhaps the Renaissance that sought to pull all these things together.

DaVinci designed helicopters and applied the Fibonacci sequence. Then many years later, it appears to me the artists, once they had conquered naturalism began to be expressive for the first time. Existentialist even. That Duchamp bloke, you know the one with the urinal, he went and made modern art and reduced it to a concept. The simplified form creates a thousand questions, and that my chums is the point. So, the next time you hear yourself saying “a 5 year old could have done that” remember these guys had a thousand years of learning, then their education, then once they mastered stuff – they all come back to simplicity. Matisse didn’t get up one morning and say “I’m gonna make a naive collage”.
For a start he was bed-ridden and he was on the cusp of his swan song. A reduction. Simple. If you squint hard enough you can see the fibonacci lurking in there somewhere.

Picture 4

Mondrian, the studio line bloke, that was all about trees. He started off trying to understand the organic and the naturalist. Then moved to the visual jus that is recognizable as a grid with primary colours harmonizing somehow. In nature, as in all around us there is a perpetual paradox of complexity and simplicity. Think of a leaf. Simple, if we draw the icon of it or an outline. However look at it closely and its divine in its construction. Straight lines belong to concrete, even if Zaha Hadid is involved. The curve, something so simple and prevalent in nature is hard. Try briefing curves to Zaha Hadid and unless you’ve got the budget of a Qatar billionaire and patience of someone really fucking patient – well you get the idea. Even Damien Hirst has obviously been through this journey. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just meet up with Charles Saatchi for lunch one day. Where Charles said “Oi, you know what I fancy in my collection? I reckon a dead shark would look blinding in the main hall. You know, really pull the room together. Can you do me one?” These are all monumental pieces of simplicity, created via the complex.

I believe people that are brilliant at something often make it look easy.
It takes confidence to be single minded, it also take experience to make that not arrogant. It’s hard to write the headline, say the few words.
Only a fool thinks they can rush to Rothko’s red period. Only a fool blurts “I love you”. Without the journey. Without the reduction.

Here’s to simple.

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Life is short…


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September 15, 2014 · 4:20 pm

Brand™ is dead

The complexity of simplicity

You don’t have to be a quantum physicist to realize the world around us, especially that of nature is full of amazing detail and wonder. Flora and fauna is full of golden section mathematical perfection. Bees make honey and ducks fly south for the winter. Sunrises and sunsets stir the soul and the stars in the sky make us remember how small we really are. From Galileo to Gaudi, Einstein to Hawking understanding the complex in simple terms is hard work. “The straight line belongs to man, the curve to god” said Gaudi.
He was talking about architecture but I think you could apply it further. To me, it implies the limits of humanity and the effortlessness of the divine.
Modern communication has been partly about trying to simplify messages, whilst the process and technology behind things becomes exponentially (for the time being) complex. A picture paints a thousand words, and the greek derivative “logo” is therefore the ultimate simplified word or name of a business, app, product, thing or ahem, brand.

It’s getting a bit boring now, but back in the early nineties, Orange was a colourful cut through in a black and white business orientated market place.
Yes it used a thin weight of Helvetica, yes it looked nice, yes it used people not phones, yes it had nice ads with rousing soundtracks, Yes it was simplified.
But, the genius in this last to market, rubbish network newby was simple: per second billing. Not too far behind it was Apple, regenerating itself with cool ads and simple thoughts and thinking different. Again, the genius was its product was actually pretty cool.
Revolutionary. Unfortunately branding hasn’t moved on much in the twenty years since Orange launched. As any honest practicioner of ‘disruptive’ strategies will tell you (behind closed doors) the product or service has to be not just good or different but better than what has gone before. Then, you can be simple.

Branding today

Most agencies now site themselves as branding companies. So what does that mean?
It could be packaging, design, marketing, advertising, events, films, and so on.
It seems to me that whilst all these companies argue internally about what they do, and who they are in competition with, and what they offer – they are making the process more complicated. There’s a great Bill Hicks monologue about marketing from the 80s.
That’s where we are at now. In the narcissistic condescending way we mere mortals that have become branding gods, we have devised a way of talking about business in a humanized way. Ever since around the time of Orange we persuade our clients to be Human, straightforward, friendly. We have visions, missions and values. We have ‘tone of voice’. The thing is, twenty years later when everyone and their brand dog wants to be a brand, it just becomes the same old same old. Then it was relevant, now maybe mundane.
There’s a great bit in “The Young Ones” when Vyvyan is entering a competition on the back of a Cornflakes packet. The question is “What does Cornflakes mean to you in ten words?” – He submits: “Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes Cornflakes, Cornflakes”
This is so brilliant on a number of levels. Firstly its like what the “Consumer” probably really thinks of Cornflakes. ie “Cornflakes”. Do you really believe someone plays back the proposition of Cornflakes when they “Purchase” Cornflakes ? Have they been on a customer journey and made an informed decision based on the parity of communication etc etc or do they just like Cornflakes?
Secondly, in the old days the laws of branding were simple. In any given market, only one can be the cheapest option, the rest will have to compete on brand. However, once all things are branded, especially when they are all trying to be human and straightforward, or different for the sake of it. Well, it’s Cornflakes.
Different’s been done daddio

Remember USP? Unique Selling Proposition. That was about being different. Branding valued the underdog challenge. Virgin Atlantic was different to BA but now its the same.
Or you launch a retail chain of coffee shops, can being pink really be a sound business idea? Different was then, not now. I think we need to seek amazing clients and also be harder on our peers to be original and create real competition again. Stop offering them another Orange, Apple, Levis or Lynx. Focus more on maintaining tribalism in theirs and our own businesses. Training not just mantras. Credos and credibility. Less TMs and more genuine desires to be better. There’s a big difference between FMCG and big purchases, but where I think we need to be smarter is things like power, banks, airlines, insurance: the things we are inert to. The things that are taking the piss. Worry less about Facebook presence and more about customer service. Stop the greed. Otherwise we will become the media equivalent of Estate Agents (in the 80s). And as much as I love a bit of the Human league, please, let’s not go there.

What Conspiracy?

As long as we continue to remove ourselves from reality with jargon, as long as we still think people (in the third person) are “Consumers”. As long as we think we some coercive masters of neuro linguistic programming, we will be on borrowed time.
Coke wasn’t trying to fuck the world up when I was a kid, it was a fizzy drink. The real thing. What’s wrong with that? There was something exciting about the big ads of the 80s.
But they were simple. I’m not suggesting we have to get to the Viz idea of “Smoke Tabs, Drink Beer” but where’s the epic simplicity gone?
I mean, “Be more dog” is fine, as long as they have the cool things to back it up.
Ever since someone thought it was pretty funny to say “meerkhat” instead of “market”, bring on the abstract ads. Thing is it (the actual service thing) any good?

Finally, because of this stuff, when you look at charity work. It’s a nightmare.
Apparently people don’t like to see charities spending money, and they don’t want to be brainwashed by the marketing mafia. So until we can find away of simplifying stuff or breaking down the barriers of being able to have fun in the name of charity, cue the ALS challenge. Until we help our clients not feel guilty. It’s OK to have a good idea.
Until we realize we are the man in the street, and word of mouth is always the best viral campaign. Until we pop down from our ivory towers. The BETTER asteroid is heading for us. Anyone got a defibrillator?

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Have you noticed how everything seems to be or want to be a brand these days?

Good, bad, intrusive, corporate, individual, global, local. From the coffee shop to the Police to celebrities to biscuits. Brand agencies or brands themselves still argue amongst themselves what sort of brand they are or aren’t, what’s on or off brand and who is the brand owner. I find it brand boring and missing the point. The sort of mild disappointing disdain that was reserved for Estate agents has crept in, fast spreading to the self named “Marketeers” that ebb and flow through media circles and powerpoint peaks. The experts. Bringing with them the camouflage of coercive facts about footfall and #trending currency.

The current landscape or brandscape (if you like words like ideation) is rammed with adverts, semiotics, messages and communication – mostly trying to be funny or quirky. Quirkiness for me is a copout that flirts with originality by being irreverent. However if the end game is irrelevance for the sake of memorability – well, that’s not a success. How about the “old school” idea of buying the item in question. 

Branding, advertising whatever you want to call it. Media people that do stuff. These people are like any profession – there are good ones and bad ones. Not to take it too seriously, it’s not the end of the world if they’re bad. I mean, you hope you’ll never meet a bad policeman or have a bad airline pilot flying you somewhere. I’m pretty sure no-one died of bad branding. Maybe they came close, but then I haven’t seen the spider chart. 


Perhaps one of the reasons that I get annoyed is quirky stuff feels like creatives making ads for ad people. Rushing into their blue period or abstraction before they’ve mastered still life naturalism. Or if you prefer less footfall and maybe a football analogy (which I’m not that good at) I imagine it’s like a 3rd division trainee trying to invent the Keegan flick or overhead back before he’s planted a proper first goal. The other big reason things irritate me is because I think the world revolves around me. I demand everything be done to my taste whether I would use it or not. Fair enough. I think good stuff starts with a bit of healthy narcissism. If you don’t like something then why would anyone else? After all, all we’re really asking people with an advert is “Is this you?”. For the pedantic among you, maybe when this transmogrifies into egocentrism that you could have a problem. The only dangerous buttons I press are “Print” or “send” so no great shakes there. 


Unlearning what we know as conventions is a good thing. But it takes time. And with the obsessive rush to own and defend brand territory it often gets overlooked. You have to know the rules, to break the rules, before you rewrite the rules. That get broken by someone else, and so it goes on. The ants will take over the world.


Imagination and creativity are things you can’t learn at University or by copying the techniques of others. However, as timeless as pen and paper. If we go back to basics, maybe we can find our own inner voice. What turns us on, what gives us goosebumps.

Only you know what that is. Consider it a personal avatar hidden in the cosmos. 

Although we are as professionals, not self indulgent artists: It would be nice to see less brand cards in workshops of other people’s logos or materialistic life style cues. More Matisse’s primary palette than Paul Smith stripes. Even better sunsets, nature. a visceral nautilus, not necessarily the golden section mathematical science.


We need, I would argue to get back to what I call Uncommon Sense. I didn’t say I made up that word, after all it’s two words and even if I TM it I’m sure it’s been said. But that’s not important. What is, is if you’d like to come and indulge me and Andy Milligan talk about what Uncommon Sense might start with. If you’d like to come, it’s a week today, next Thursday 28th November at the Hide Gallery SE1. Tickets are available at the following link:



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