Close your eyes

[yes, I realise that with your eyes close it’s hard to read this. So perhaps it’s best to just pretend to have your eyes closed]

Think about L’Oreal. Think about their products. Their brand. What do you see? French sophistication, supermodels, lots of gold and glamour. And now think of what new products you could envisage them creating. I’m thinking moisturizers, face creams, anti-aging (Dove has already cornered the market for pro-age), skin creams. And now think a little bit further out. What would you come up with? One thing I wouldn’t have come up with, and to be honest have my doubts about, is a drink. But apparently, L’Oreal and Coca Cola are working on developing a neutraceutical drink, which is ‘expected to contain ingredients that will help women care for their skin’ and targets ‘active, influential, image-conscious women over the age of 25 who embrace health and wellness’. I’m not convinced, I don’t see this working. Drinking L’Oreal? I don’t think so. What do you guys think? Yeay or nay? Source: Bevnet’s report and this week’s Marketing Week. [also saw this after I wrote this]

And if you’ve still got your eyes closed, you might want to listen to some good music. Each New Year’s Eve, Jools Holland presents the Hootenanny on BBC, which is a great showcase of the best music around. Check out this year’s highlights: two duets by Paul Weller and the divalicious Amy Winehouse.

Some more of my favourites of this year’s episodes: the Zutons and the Kooks (I love that bandnames with a ‘the’ are popular again), soul legend Sam Moore

PS And for dessert, this song has completely stolen my heart!

[edit: am I the only one that thinks neutraceutical is a bit of a strange word?]

I love…

Afb0092…the London Business School library. Because they have everything you could possible want book-wise if you’re an MBA student. Because if they don’t have it, they’ll buy it for you. Because they have brand-spanking new books on interesting topics (such as Jon Steel’s Perfect Pitch and Wikinomics).Because the staff are superfriendly. Because they have access to the best selection of databases I’ve ever seen.

…my new place. After having moved in three weeks ago, my housemate and I finally made the dreaded obligatory trip to Ikea this past Thursday. I drove a white van across the centre of London ;-) Finally the house looks likes I/we want it, with a nice desk for me, a really cool lamp which has touch sensors to turn it on or off, some assorted bits and bobs and most importantly: bookshelves! I love having my own stuff with me again and the neighbourhood we live in (West Hampstead) is fabulous too: a bagelshop that opens early til late, a superfriendly supermarket, a newsagents across the street which stocks everything from the New Yorker to the marketing trade press, a bakery 30 seconds from my front door which has great muffins, a deli which has great food on the corner and a well-stocked bookshop 2 mins down the street. Life is good!

… the post-wrap up stress (I think it’s addictive). This week’s week 10, which means the last week of this Spring term (it snowed yesterday, so much for spring). And that means exams, case write-ups, essays, business plans that are all due to complete courses this term. Apart from a few smaller assignments that are still outstanding, the presentation of our businessplan tonight to a group of real-life investors (I won’t be presenting, but will be involved in the Q&A and have just finished pulling together the business plan a few hours ago), a few meetings (some for pleasure, some more serious), I’m almost done (that is, if the business plan that we wrote will come out of the printer alright), and I forgot how much hard work final weeks of term can be. I’ve worked flat out for the last 10 days (with the trip to Ikea squeezed in for good measure) and I could do with a little R&R. I’ve booked my flights back to NL for late next week and am looking forward to spending some time with family, friends and my hairdresser (I’m starting to look like a hippie).

Life is good.

What do you get when you cross

Knightrider with Starsky & Hutch? You get this: Hammer and Coop. I think these are absolutely brilliant. Talking cars, sideburns, moustaches and unbelievably bad haircuts, what’s not to like! And I’m convinced that I’m not the only one who wouldn’t mind seeing an episode of Knightrider again :-)

We’re in the middle of week 9 of our Spring Term (and this week, it really feels like spring, the weather’s been gorgeous) and that means assignments, exams, case write-ups, presentations and businessplans all around, with next week the last week of term. And I’m getting all nostalgic already (which probably explains my newly found love for Hammer and Coop), after this there’s only one more term left at school.

My classes this term have been really good, I loved Wally Olins The Unstoppable Growth of Branding for the great inspiration and best powerpoint slides I’ve seen, Prof Day’s Product Innovation for reminding me how much I love the topic, Prof Lacey’s Leading Teams and Organisations for reminding me yet again that I have so much left to learn and last but not least Prof Bates’ New Venture Development for inspiring me to think about starting my own business and at the same time filling me with dread about doing it.

Speaking of New Venture Development, *start commercial break* one of my teammates and friends, Farhan, is helping out with the Entrepreneurship Conference later on this season. *end commercial break* I couldn’t attend last year’s conference, so I’m definitely going this year.

[what does the picture above have to do with this post? Hmmm. Nothing. But I like it. It’s the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern in the background, one of my favourite spots in London]

On beauty and consolation

Samp539adc09a4d68dee_1This post has been in the making for a while now and is a little different from what I normally write (for one thing because I’ve actually thought about what I want to write before I open my browser instead of my normal stream of consciousness-blurt-it-all-out technique). Or maybe not that different, since I suppose this whole blog is me going off on rants and tangents. [editor’s note after writing this whole thing: I didn’t do too much editing in the end.]

Wieden + Kennedy (of, amongst other things, this Nike ad last summer) posted this question on their blog.  Can anything be beautiful? My first reaction yes. And then no. Time for a cup of tea and a comfy seat to dissect this.

A few years ago, the Dutch broadcaster VPRO aired a documentary series, which I’m dying to get my hands on on DVD, called ‘Van de Schoonheid en de Troost‘ which translates as ‘On Beauty and Consolation’. A well-known Dutch documentary maker interviewed philosophers, writers, musicians and scientists from all over the globe about these two concepts. I watched every episode I could religiously, completely mesmerized. It was fascinating to watch how these two concepts meant so many different things for different people, and it was the first time that I felt TV was more than just entertainment, that it could provide food for thought and that I thought about the more philosophical things in life.

My second reaction was that anything CAN be beautiful, that every image, object and thought has some innate beauty to it. Whether or not someone perceives it that way is another matter. I wrote a whole post following this train of thought and was pretty pleased with myself. That is, until I saw this weekend’s Sunday Times supplement, which featured the best photos of 2006. And as I was looking at these photographs, some of which are of horrific events, I remembered the TV series mentioned above that I watched all that time ago. And I realised that no, not everything is beautiful.

I believe that concepts such as beauty are human constructs, concepts we devise to make the world more manageable. Beauty reassures us that life is not just the reality we see around us. There is something bigger, something beyond ourselves that we can tap into, something to inspire us and console us. That is what beauty is to me. So that means that no, anything cannot be beautiful, what gives me pleasure and consolation will not be the same for someone else since my experiences in life and my moral views are unique to me. As much as I hate to be relativist (blogposts are a lot easily written if you’re going off on a rant, not when you’re trying to look at things from different angles, let alone when your post leads down the relativist path), this is it. Not everything can be beautiful. I’m not an expert on semantics (and a trip to leaves me in limbo), but I feel something can be esthetically pleasing (as in, beautiful in its own right) but not beautiful (as in, beautiful in my definition, which is esthetically pleasing + offer consolation/inspiration). Da** (excuse my french), I wish I had taken some philosophy classes in my undergrad so I could express this a little better.

[image comes courtesy of Imagechef]

Milk with sugar

Afb042One of the nice things about living not too close to school is that I take public transport a lot. And most of the time I quite enjoy it, since it’s a treasure trove of interesting conversation and observation.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about user generated content, and following from that, whether anyone can be creative. Better minds than mine have already said a lot about this, and I don’t have the answer. The optimist in me says that everyone must at least have a few creative bones in their body, the pessimist says that judging by what comes out of most people they might not have anything remotely creative in them.

This morning on the bus I stumbled on a little treasure. I heard and saw a little boy and his mother on their way to school, and the boy asked all these really good questions. My favourite one was: what does tea with milk and sugar taste like without the tea? Just the milk and sugar? He drove his mum nuts and she quickly put and end to it, but I thought he was very insightful normal for a boy his age (he was about 6 I think). When and why do people lose this ability to wonder about the things around them and why things are the way they are?

This morning in Product Innovation, Mat Hunter from Ideo London came and spoke to us. I enjoyed his talk last year a lot (I can’t seem to find my blog entry about it, so no link I’m afraid), so I was very much looking forward to this and I wasn’t disappointed, he rocked. Insightful and humble, with great slides made for an interesting presentation.

[added: two interesting examples of crowdsourcing, i.e. the creativity of a group, in creative projects: Penguin‘s attempts to have a book written by using a wiki, and Aswarmofangels which is trying to get people to participate in and funding of a movie.]
[edit: thought about whether this was insightful or normal 6-year old behaviour. In an adult it is creative (or irritating, depending on how you look at it). In a 6-year old it is normal.]