Monday, 30 July 2012


Odd how a bit of sunshine completely changes the way you feel or think. Or in my case not think. My brain has gone into “idle” ever since a fortnight in sunny Venice and a return to, heaven be praised, sunny  Brighton. (Now I understand the problem in Greece, Italy and Spain – too much sun). Now I’m in a kind of “what’s it all about Alfie?” frame of mind. Given the state of the world today,  Alfie rather than the IMF or the rest of that wretched Troika might have a more useful viewpoint.

So Alfie what do you think?

“Well the Olympics are great. Have you noticed how much nicer people are being at stations and throughout London – smiling and being helpful? I guess we might be learning to lift our standards of customer service…and be like they are in New York. And yes the sunshine helps. And there’s something odd in the press: a series of views that the bad news about recession may have been too gloomy and possibly wrong. Even James Naughtie was cheery on the Today programme. Post Leveson could we have a good-news media? Are we being infected by what Boris called a “benign virus”? What else do I really think? Economics is boring and always wrong - always. Bankers are barmy. The uber-rich are wretched and doomed. People at the top of companies are all “out of touch”. Oh yes one other thing.  The Olympics is wonderful because it’ll be about everyone trying their best but I don’t much like McDonalds, Coca-Cola or Visa. Oops – shouldn’t have said that…. What else do you want to know?”
Just your address Alfie, so the Brand Police can come and arrest you for “reputation-terrorist-attacks” on those great brands.

How do we recreate that sunshine we’ve missed for so long? Speeches don’t do it. Images can start to. Music helps. But it’s an event that does it. We need an anniversary, a national party, a big unifying event to make everyone grin.

The lesson of the Olympics is a lesson in the power of “Event Marketing”.

And Alfie is right.
I was in London today, the Olympic spirit is wonderful and London buzzed.
We are so lucky because I suddenly realised how great London is – here’s how Nancy Durrant of the Times described it - “a heaving, breathing, shifting beast with a mind of its own.”
And that’s just Boris Johnson.

Boris – a mind of his own - sunshine or shower?

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Continuing our occasional posts from our correspondent in Brazil - here's Rachel Macbeath's second contribution:

Little wonder that Rio is coined as 'The City of God'. 

Nestled between mountains and ocean, it’s so photogenic. From the top of Sugar Loaf you get panoramic views across Rio; sweeping white sand beaches and mountains swathed in tropical rainforest. 

But behind its pretty face lies a mischievous, recalcitrant side.

Despite the fact that Brazil's GDP is currently the tenth in the world there is an unsettling dichotomy between the rich and poor. Poverty is Brazil's great sickness with 30.3% of the country's population living below the poverty line. Strangely mansions and favelas (slums) are positioned close to each other. Rich and poor literally gaze into each other's windows, causing great socio-economic tension. 

Whilst children get free public education, many do not attend because poor families generally prefer their children as young as 10, to start working as soon as possible to generate an income.
Pick pocketing is rife but the police are really making a effort to polish up the city's reputation with crime rates falling. If you want to stay safe in Rio at night, it's a trendy move to look poor- no flashing fancy cameras or showcasing your beloved bling.

More to follow...

Monday, 23 July 2012


I’m just back from ten days of being soaked with sun and heat in Venice unlike what’s happened here. Bill Bryson once lamented that living in Britain was like being under a Tupperware container. Bill was right.
But Mike Geoghegan ex CEO of HSBC was wrong when he scathingly remarked “Venice used to be the banking centre of the world now it’s just a water attraction”. Venice could actually say something a great deal nastier about HSBC given their current problems with money laundering.

Life started to get tricky for Venice in the late 15th century as their monopoly of sea travel ended thanks to Columbus opening up the seaways going west and Vasco de Gama opening up sea trade round Africa and into Asia.  Venice then had a population of 180,000 (much bigger than London) and 1,000 of them would have been multi-billionaires in 21st century terms. Considering what Napoleon finally did to them in 1797 they’ve done OK.  I hope London survives as well.

Surprises about Venice:
Prices are cheaper than last year – in some cases 40% less.
People are more cheerful and customer service has improved.
American accents fill the air.

The towering Costa Fascinosa sailed in bold as brass as though nothing nasty had ever happened to the brand.

There’s a rash of graffiti (much of it anti-fascist.)
And there’s poster for Prada on the side of the Doge’s Place….I hate marketing.
The churches are empty of tourists.
It’s never been easier to walk quietly around the art galleries.
The food has got much better and better value too.
We had Orange Martini Prosecco cocktails in the Guggenheim dryly described by someone as “alcoholic marmalade”.
And Tintoretto continues to astound the more you see of him – a Shakespeare of painters

Surprises closer to home:
Gatwick was the airport of the future going out – upgraded, highly-automated, no horrible security queues.

Coming home Border Control people were quick, efficient, charming and intelligent.

And in Curry’s yesterday I had my own personal shopper helping me choose printer ink followed by a beaming manager thanking me for shopping there. In the background I saw a group of employees role playing and testing each other’s product knowledge
In the past month something has changed. It’s as though superior customer service has been poured into the water system. I never thought I’d say I’m proud of a British Airport and people seem to realise doing tourism well may actually be a better trade than banking.

And one other thing.

I saw a story that only around 50% of people in London were looking forward to the Olympics. I think that’s actually a surprisingly high figure. And the weather’s getting better too.

Cheer up.

Friday, 20 July 2012


I came across this recently and thought it was worth sharing with you.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Creativity is at the heart of human resourcefulness especially now in straitened times. As the scientist Lord Rutherford said “we have no money so we shall have to think.” So indeed we, in Brighton, are…thinking, that is, and thinking creatively and it’s very satisfying.

I’m constantly asked when I think things will return to normal. People get disconcerted when I say “never.” People keep on doing what we all do, looking in the same place again and again for something we’ve lost in case it gets somehow spirited back. Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…. as usual he was right.

The German philosopher Theodor Arno didn’t much like normality saying it was death. Well now 40 years after his own death he can rest happy. Normal is not just death it’s dead.

Technology has seen to that. 70% of the people in this overcrowded world own a mobile phone, the electric car in the shape of the Tesla Model S (0 to 60mph in 4.4 seconds) is a dazzling reality and things happen that humble the stupid amongst us. I met Nick D’Aloisio recently. He invented Summly an app that has (on paper) made him a millionaire. But here’s the thing. He’s 15 going on 16, doing his GCSEs. Abnormal success in a balanced young man.

We have a business landscape that has the economists, those heretics of the 21st century who would be mostly hanging from the battlements were we in normal, mediaeval times, aghast. From Greece to Brazil to India nothing is remotely predictable or normal. I hear the expression “managing the complexity of change”. It doesn’t come close to describing our real world. Try “surfing the tsunamis of chaos” and you might get closer. Yet the world of business has become a place of brilliant opportunity. Last year more businesses started up in the UK than anywhere else in the world. More than in Brazil, China or America. Normal? No, extraordinary. And Brighton is at the heart of this abnormally buoyant SME economy.

Recently I did some work with the CEO of the Chinese offices of the advertising agency Young and Rubicam whose manta is “resist the usual”. He said “China is on fire”. Then as we walked around Brighton before and after lunch from the state-of-the-art library to the cafĂ© society, he saw what we, too close to it, miss. The buzz, retail eccentricity and liveliness. In a world where normal is dead Brighton is a creative place at ease with itself and potentially “on fire” too.

Do you remember Peter Finch in the film “Network” saying “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” In 1976 it was normal to “take it” which is what made Finch’s performance so striking. Now none of us take or put up with anything. MP’s expenses, journalist malpractice, rich tax-avoiders, overpaid CEOs, bankers.  Historically such  institutions as these were impervious but not anymore. What this leads to is an abnormal opportunity to do things in new ways, break old rules and recreate business models and change attitudes.

Even that British malaise of grumbling, is in decline. On a soggy Sunday at Seven Dials I remarked to the newsagent “what a dreary day” and was roundly rebuked by her “How can you say that? It’s Sunday, a lovely day to relax with your family and have fun.” And then (cue “feel-good”) the sun came out.
Nothing is normal today. Normal is dead. And Brighton seems OK with that.

 Richard Hall - -

Friday, 6 July 2012

THERE'S AN AWFUL LOT OF COFFEE IN BRAZIL (and that's about all most of us know)

Considering how important an economy Brazil is, that’s pathetic.

Rachel MacBeath is a very bright Scot who’s in Brazil doing very good work for a few months and I’ve asked her to tell us what it’s really like there.

So here it is “Letter from Brazil” part one.

Over a coffee; milk no sugar, I agreed to hijack Richard's blog over the coming weeks and report on working life in Brazil.

I've been here for two weeks now and I'm firmly getting into the samba swing of Rio life. Now, it's time for you to get a taste of my life in the 'cidade maravilhosa'- the marvellous city!

I'm working in a day centre, Casa Sorriso Da Crianca, located in the Iiha Do Governador neighbourhood in Rio. The name of the centre in English translates to: 'Smile Of the Child' and cares for 50+ children between 6 months to 5 years between 8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. It was opened 15 years ago by Ana Paula Da Cruz; who still runs it from her home today. After losing three of her own children, Ana wanted to protect children in the community and show them the good things that life has to offer. The children conform to the centre's name and are always smiling and demanding your full attention. Despite the obvious language barrier, I've come to realise that laughter is the language of the world that everyone understands, especially children. Cuddles and smiles are other useful universal tools that transcend all barriers.  

The centre is a way of keeping the children off the streets and away from social pitfalls such as drug abuse and other criminal activities. The children receive three meals a day, play games, partake in educational activities and receive basic health care. The centre solely relies on donations from the public and stakeholders. It welcomes any types of donations including food, clothes, toys, cleaning supplies and the most obvious- money. Ana's uncle was the one of the main donators, contributing 60% towards the centre's overall budget, but recently passed away. Consequentially, the centre is under great financial strain and at risk of closure. As the day centre is not in a politically prosperous area or a district that generates votes, the Government does not invest in projects in the area. Moreover, funding requests have fallen on deaf ears.

Over the next month or so, I endeavour to use my marketing and communications expertise to raise the centre's profile in the media and look into lucrative funding avenues. With the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics rapidly approaching all eyes are on Rio. It's therefore vital that the good work of centres such as the aforementioned do not get overlooked and swept aside. Money should be invested into these worthy causes to help the adults of tomorrow and keep them away from the dangers that are so prevalent in Rio. Hopefully our small team can do a bit to make a difference.

Next time, I'll fill you in on all the touristy hotspots I've been frequenting and give you a sneak peek of the Kodak moments.
5 things I've learnt about Brazil thus far:

   1. Rio is a very hilly city therefore there are LOTS of steps. Hello muscles I didn't know existed!

   2. Cariocas know how to dance, really dance. And that's without a cheeky tipple unlike us Brits!

   3. If your Portuguease is failing mid conversation, speak louder and add a few O's at the end.

   4. They love black beans here. Every dish has a hearty helping of beans.

   5. They love to sell products on buses. People hop on the bus at various stops and try to flog brands of biscuits, sweets, shampoo. It really works as well. Sir Alan Sugar would be impressed with their business acumen!

Monday, 2 July 2012


“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” says Marcellus at the beginning of Hamlet and indeed with three hours the Danish game is over, Norway takes over, all the key players are dead and “the rest” as they say “is silence”. Does any of this feel familiar?

I was talking to a one-time senior Civil Servant recently who said he could understand the economic woes as a consequence of things being out of balance but that the corruption within the police force had shaken him to his core.  I’d argue when there is a complete blurring of what is right and wrong anything can go wrong and it is.

We have institutionalised corruption and breakdown across the board and it’s a cultural issue. Brand Britain is ruled by the urge for power and money. Nothing else matters it would seem.  We are being taught to admire monsters as our role models. But who else could run Barclays than Bob the bankers cry. It’s a bit like lamenting the passing of Fred West as a landlord.

Time for a reshuffle…..

First MPs – as Jefferson said “a little rebellion is sometimes a good thing” – they need to throw out corrupt practices like whipping and start to think. And the manners need to improve. Sorry Messrs Ball and
Osborne you’re being locked up for rudeness.

Press – bye, bye Digger and Dacre and a culture of sensationalism.

Church – a female Bishop or two and a bit more smiling – gaiety even might help. Best chance the church has had for a century to be taken seriously and all it can do is be fixated on genitalia.

Law – the judges are a bastion against extremism – smart and not driven by cash but ambulance chasing attitudes amongst the rest should be punishable by scorn (scorn is worse than death in the new world order.)

Police – root out the rotters.

World bodies –remove the apparatchiks who’ve ruined world sport, banking and politics. Sepp Blatter is a cartoon metaphor for Danish rottenness as is the unfortunately obsessed Dominque Strauss Kahn.

What an example to set a new generation.

And the banks. Well sad. Root and branch reform needed. Imprison all the banking boards just in case. And resort to 363. 363? Yes. Borrow at 3% in the morning. Lend at 6% at lunchtime. Be on the 1st tee at 3pm. Banking is simple. Honestly.

Shakespeare would have had a ball with all this.

And if you think it’s all too hard look at the recovery in Iceland. Prime Minster Johanna Sigurdardottir, well done. And gosh you’re a woman and a lesbian ….Church are you listening?