I had a coffee with George this week and the first thing he says is, "Look, I've been here 18 months, got the company going straight, clients happy, making money...but how do I make some buzz?"
Honestly, questions like that should be making me a rather handsome consulting buck but I think the reason my money-bags are not exactly of cartoon bank robbery proportion, is that not enough people are asking that question - and even fewer are willing to pay for the answer. George and I had not seen each other in a few months and needed to catch up on many things conceptual and marketing-like. And there's nothing more marketing-like than generating buzz - that elusive commodity, that "where's my line-item in the contract for buzz fee?", that "why are they famous and I'm not" question. And if I had the answers, god, I should own my own island somewhere. But the thing is here, and all my consulting clients please note, it's not the answer that's so important - you might not even like it. What's important is that we are always all willing to search, willing to ask, willing to be not-so-goddamn-smug-and-sure-of-ourselves, and that, in and of itself, will get us simply better answers. What is paid for is the trip - the destination, if things go extremely well, is just a happy bonus.
George runs a, small in Vietnam, but internationally respected advertising brand (dreadful homepage) who's entire brand ethos revolves around a concept they call "Disruption" (much better page). In other days it's been called Breaking Through the Clutter or other things but it's basically the same idea. How to you make waves? How do you rock the boat? How do you get buzz? And how can you (or your firm) be celebrated, valued and in the end, paid by clients for producing this aforementioned elusive commodity? And the answer remains the same - the trick is in always trying. Creative Dissatisfaction it has been called. It's never good enough. Because if you don't try, you are absolutely assured, not to win.
George quickly called me on a post I had written about influences and high standards and reminded me that even my father, who held a ridiculously high standard in his business, had criticized me for this exact effect. But George then quickly added, "50% will love you and 50% will hate you. Deal with it." I can live with that. I could even play with the percentages a bit and not feel too badly. I know more than 50% of the people hate Lady Gaga and I'm sure she sleeps nicely at night.
Meeting George gave me a bit of hope after meeting with some other less than inspiring individuals in the last few weeks. I've met too many people just doing the bare minimum to not rock the boat and that's just not part of my composition. Even my design professor at university had come from a sports background and was just ferociously competitive - he loved to see his own students just scratch and claw to get that buzz. How competitive is your company? If the answer is "not very" - you can either fix it, or wait for the competition to figure it out. Stay curious, George. You are the competition.