After the Flood

Thursday, 26 April 2001 - Fiuggi, Italy

Fiuggi Italy

Presentation Summary

A presentation to the CNN, Fortune and Time Global Marketing Forum. At the old spa town of Fiuggi, they’ve been bottling restorative waters for centuries. An appropriate location, therefore, to talk about revitalizing brands. The speech identifies seven peaks to head for, including: emotional rescue, age of women, the local relationships, peak performance and lovemarks.

I’m totally pumped to be in Fiuggi. For old hands like Sergio Zyman [the former Chief Marketing Officer of Coca Cola] and me, historic towns like this are part of our personal mythology. The people here were bottling restorative waters and marketing them round Europe centuries ago. Our elixirs Pepsi and Coke are punk kids in this company. But one of them, at least according to thousands of taste tests, does taste better!

The people of Fiuggi also had the good sense to put their town on top of a hill – which brings me to my title: “After the flood.” As strategic marketers looking to the future we risk being flooded by huge challenges.

It’s time for a new response. Passion, spirit, inspiration – we will need them all. Brands have stalled. Trapped by process and formulas they are running on empty. Fixated on management and metrics, they have forgotten about spirit. The “how” has become more important than the “why”. Information has smothered relationships.

What we need is a rush to burn off the statistical smog. What is this “rush”? Love. The best of what makes us human. My message over the last year has been that without Love business is not going anywhere. Love gives us a new way of doing business. This insight has turned out to be both exciting and provocative. It is already changing the way big companies think in the USA and Japan, in Australia and Brazil, in the UK and in France.

To escape cataclysms, storms, enemies of all kinds, human beings have always sought the high ground. Near here are the famous Seven Hills of Rome where it all began. Let’s explore seven peaks that can revive and reinvent branding.

Peak One: Emotional Rescue

First up, emotion. Back from a long exile, emotion has new cachet. It’s agreed: human beings think with emotion. We just can’t help it. Rational man is a myth, and good riddance to him. Woman, of course, has always been too smart to stumble into the rationality trap.

How are marketers responding? As expected. Manage and measure emotion through the complexities of CRM and with matrices, graphs and proprietary tools. Bloodless calculation by the guys with the pocket protectors. Just rationality in another guise.

Why does this matter? Emotional breakthroughs are escaping us. The potential to sell more stuff faster is being lost. What a waste. Neurology tells us why. Here’s Donald Calne: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions.”

I stand for action, not more conclusions. I want to touch the emotions, not give consumers more stuff to think about – “Action Man” not “I Think, Therefore I Am Man.” Engage the emotions and you’re where the action is.

Peak Two: The Age of Woman

My second peak has always been there: women. It may sound crazy to locate around 50 percent of the population as a peak, but we’re not talking statistics. We’re talking the way the world works. Today we are seeing a fundamental shift to a new source of energy and potential.

The numbers first. In the U.S. women influence or control 81 percent of all consumer purchase decisions. They spend around $3.7 trillion a year. They sign 80 percent of all cheques. Women are making the decisions. They handle 75% of all household finances and more than 53% of investment decisions. Last year, for the first time, more women than men used the Web. Finally, drilling on down, the sale of power tools last Mother’s Day equaled those on Father’s Day!

What does this add up to? 2001. A new era. The Age of Woman. Women don’t want to be niched. They hate being labeled a segment. They don’t want cut-down versions or simplified instructions. No wonder the research findings about them are all over the place. Do they have special needs, or don’t they? Do they want to be butt-kicking babes or liberated career chicks? Lara Croft or Hillary Clinton? Or both?

Terms I would have been lynched for using a decade ago have been reclaimed by Third Wave feminists. Check out “Bust: The Magazine for Women with Something to Get Off Their Chests.” This is the new grrl order. These grrls are funny, smart and no one stands in their way.

Culture is becoming more feminine. More businesses are turning their sights on women. Nike did it recently by setting up a Women’s Division. The rationale is not so the company can target women better. The rationale is to catch up with women. To grasp the interconnectedness of all things. Quantum physics revealed this profound unity last century. Women have known it for millennia. Their complex and subtle understanding of the world and of relationships has always held them back. I believe it is today’s killer app.

If this is to be the Age of Woman, it will also be the age of instinct, intuition, empathy and gut feeling. The DNA of emotion, of course, not reason. What women go for will spearhead what everyone goes for.

Peak Three: The Senses

There is no way we can understand the world without experiencing it first through the radar of our senses. The senses are the only way into someone’s mind. The more sensory input we have, the better a communication or a relationship or a love affair becomes. The new passion for design is all about sensory appeal.

Science fiction guru Bruce Sterling calls the new wave of design desirables blobjects. The iMac, the Gillette MACH3, the new Beetle. Partly the children of computation and partly the offspring of new materials, blobjects and the human body go hand-in-hand. Pals beneath the skin.

As for touch, it’s being advanced at the leading edge through a technology called haptics. But it’s tough. Sorting squishy or rigid may take decades. It’s hardwired into some guys.

The cause of smell has only been taken on recently by technology. Why so slow? Scent is hugely complex. Genetic researcher Doron Lancet points out that humans have four genes for vision but 1,000 for smell! With most taste wrapped up in there too. The nose seems to lead more directly to the emotions than the eyes or ears.

Peak Four: The Local

My next peak is the local. Local in contrast to global. In the 1980s Saatchi & Saatchi declared itself for global brands. Twenty years on, we realize we were partly right but mostly wrong. We sure got it right that the global economy was on its way.

Global markets now produce and consume about 20 percent of world output. We are looking at trillion dollar opportunities. Products, services, information and people are moving across cultural, political and geographic boundaries faster and faster.

But we got a lot wrong because we got people wrong. People live in the local. And they love it there. I have never met a global consumer. We define ourselves by our differences. They tell us who we are. Italians go for red Ferraris; no self-respecting Swede will pass up a gray Volvo.

Good ideas come from everywhere. When cappuccino and nacho and sushi went global, did it make them any less local? Of course not. Think global act local is completely back-to-front. Think local – cappuccino and sushi – then act global. Adapt the local insight and rework it around the globe. Fast.

Peak Five: Relationships not Transactions

Over the last 30 years the shift of power from manufacturers to retailers and distributors has been well documented. But listen up. A more radical shift is gathering.

It’s no longer what businesses agree to give customers; it is what customers demand of business. Forget transactions powered by information. Forget one-size-fits-all brands. Suddenly those manufacturers and retailers who have built global empires on the premise of the passive consumer are scrambling for a new plan. People want control of their lives. People want local choices. Power to the People!

What people want is to feel. To experience intimate relationships. To experience Love. Track Love back from the emotions and the senses to women and relationships and hey! We’re back at Love. The perfect circle. The pumping heart.

Peak Six: Peak Performance

My sixth peak is Peak Performance. I was involved with a major global study at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. We set out to find better organisational principles to suit these ambiguous times. Our book: “Peak Performance: Business Lessons from the World’s Top Sporting Organizations”.

We concluded: it’s not about management, doing things right; it’s not about leadership, doing the right things; it’s about inspiration and spirit. About inspirational players taking inspired leaps. It’s letting your people loose to be the best they can be.

Peak Seven: Lovemarks

The seventh and final peak is the high point from which to grasp all the others. The peak called love.

Check out what I call the Love/Respect Axis. The High Respect area is where most successful businesses fit along with their brands. Solid achievements focused on what I called the “e-r” words. Better, faster, easier, whiter, straighter, cleaner. But the best relationships draw on both High Respect and High Love. High reason and high emotion. This is where enduring friendships and life-time relationships belong.

So if Love is the spirit of this new age, how do we draw on its power? Through Lovemarks. Lovemarks are a game-breaking opportunity to reinvent brands. Over the past months I’ve developed my ideas on my web sites. Join in at and

Lovemarks go beyond brands because of their single-minded pursuit of mystery, sensuality and intimacy. Mystery deepens the complexity of the relationship between the customer and an experience. It is the stories, metaphors and iconic characters that give the relationship its texture.

Sensuality is fundamental to the human condition. The five senses turn out to be acute benchmarks of lasting customer relationships, outstanding innovation, inspired execution.

The final signature of a Lovemark is the close-up world of intimacy. These are the moments that seal loving relationships. A broad brush-stroke won’t do it. We need the small but significant gesture.

Mystery, sensuality and Intimacy. The three powerful concepts that build to a Lovemark. From those concepts we have developed the Lovemarker. This is the tool at the heart of Lovemarks. You can put anything through the Lovemarker’s 14 elements. It has helped us develop insights into Fortune 100 brands, countries, major religions, a US President, magazines, auto companies and apparel producers.

In every instance we found some new insight leading to instant improvement, as well as ideas that went to the core of organizational spirit, attitude and values.

The Lovemarking process can generate great ideas and sharpen your thinking about most anything. Ideas, concepts and even, in the case of my favourite, Bill Clinton, Presidents! To show you what it can do with a country, let’s quickly take Italy through the Lovemarker.


Great stories: No contest. Italy’s stories underpin the Western World. They have gone global and enriched us all. Romulus and Remus, the Godfather, the drama of Prada battling for the America’s Cup in far away New Zealand. The Italians wrote the book on taking the local global.

Secret ingredients: What makes Italy unique? It is a rich stew infused with so many flavours it is hard to distinguish them. More than a touch of drama, a suggestion of hauteur, humour, style, charm and poison. As powerful as dynamite. More evocative than perfume. Still legendary alchemists.

Past, present and future: Italy wears its past with pride. Scratch an Italian and he bleeds history through the fabric of his perfectly cut Armani. But the past can be a burden as well as a resource when you are driving for the future.

Dreams: In a globalising world holding onto our local flavour of dreams is a huge challenge. Here Italy struggles too. When Charlie’s Pizza in New York is a soggy triangle of cheesy crap, how does a New Yorker of Italian descent keep the dream alive? I sense Italy’s grip on our dreams is weakening, battered by clichés and stereotypes.

Characters and icons: I’m a fan of the great General Maximus as portrayed by Russell Crowe. An Oscar in 2001 for a New Zealander portraying an Italian who lived more than two millennia ago. Go Maximus! But again its strength lies in the past like the Colosseum and the Tower of Pisa – still leaning, but hardly leading edge.


The five senses are Italy’s strongest suite.

Touch: Arrive at the airport and know you are in the land of the embrace. Italians were never taught “don’t touch!” Their superb design heritage springs straight from skilful hands.

Taste and smell: The pizza, the pasta, the wine, the coffee, the drains. Distinctive, delicious (mostly), different.

Vision: Time to toss the historic laurels. When your style becomes global style, the blands close in. Watch out Prada, Armani, Gucci before you are accessorized to death.

Sound: In a rambunctious culture like this one, noise sounds out the rhythm of life. From the power of Pavarotti to the roar of a Ducati in a narrow alley, Italy is sound.


Finally, intimacy. Too in-your-face for some maybe, intimacy Italian-style has a lot to teach the rest of us. Push past your comfort level and feel it.

Emotion: Italy is where you go for a post-grad qualification in emotion. The home of unembarrassed love. The kind of love that cries in public and laughs out loud in church.

Empathy: Here I sense a weakness in Italian intimacy that ripples out through so many joyous positives. It’s maybe a little inward looking. It’s checking how you look in the mirror before saying “I love you”. Your style before my substance.

Inspiration: Look to the edges. To thriving little Italys in London and Sydney, New York and Montreal. Still inspired by the pure dream of Italy. Transforming a global icon into distinctively local Lovemarks.

Summing up

Italy is an extraordinary story told over centuries that needs a shot of new life. An emotional epi-centre for generations, I sense Italy may be becoming trapped by cool and calculation. But today it is a Lovemark – for me and I bet for you too.

Lovemarking is an inspirational tool for generating insights, making discoveries, experiencing the senses and revealing the mysteries. Lovemarking is an instant way of locating yourself in a globalising world. It’s a way of telling a story, of drilling right into the human spirit for new ways to communicate and connect.

Is your brand a Lovemark? Are you up to the challenge of turning it into one?

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