Christina Canright on the power of inspiration in business and life. Inspiring stories, quotes, images, ideas, videos put us in a positive frame of mind, lead to a deepened commitment, spur us to generate fresh ideas, and, most importantly, help us connect with a shared vision.
We work a lot on paying attention to details in our company. Is what we’ve written accurate? Has the final copy been proofed? Do the message and design reflect the brand? Every detail matters in the business of communications—every detail reflects on us and our customer.
I got a good lesson in attention to digital and material details at a reception for members of the Executives’ Club of Chicago (Canright client) this past week. In this case, the material part also meant “fabric,” as the event was held at the new Burberry flagship store in Chicago.
At the store, tradition meets high-tech and social media. It was so exciting to see a brand that had previously been perceived as stuffy, now anything but. A fashion innovator. And in the space of just a few short years. Associates were friendly and more down-to-earth than I expected, proudly describing details of the clothing—down to the stitching—the store, and the way associates communicate with associates at the other stores around the globe.
I’ve been interested in textiles and their history for a long time and noticed the contemporary cut, color, and feel of the fabric is very different than the company’s traditional fashion look and feel but in keeping with its innovative past. Thomas Burberry was, after all, the inventor of gabardine fabric—and designer of the company’s signature product, the trench coat, first submitted as a design for an army officer’s raincoat to the United Kingdom War Office in 1901. In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare, resulting in the “trench coat”. Its adoption by the fashion world and the cinema is, as they say, history.
Walking into the Burberry store that night, I was struck with the variety of products—purses, shoes, perfumes, jackets, men’s suits, children’s clothes, and of course, the “trenches,” as they call them. Colors and fabrics that show how CEO Angela Ahrendts and her creative director, Christopher Bailey, have reinvented and reinvigorated the brand over the past several years.
The reinvention of the brand is apparent when you see the new Chicago store, on Michigan Avenue at Ontario, with its plaid-embossed chrome-plated exterior and ceiling-to-floor banners in the front windows. Inside, the exterior banners are reinforced by a ceiling-to-floor “digital content display” on the third floor.
“It’s that balance between the physical and virtual worlds that Burberry—and every other retailer—is working overtime to figure out. The pundits keep telling us we’ve entered a brave new Amazon world where on-line retailing is king and bricks-and-mortar a lingering anachronism. The unceasing crowds on Michigan Avenue would suggest otherwise,” wrote architecture critic and blogger Lynn Becker in “Tartan check-mate: Burberry’s Reinvigorates the Mag Mile,” a thoughtful piece on the new store’s design and its relationship to Chicago and Michigan Ave. retail architecture past and present.
The tech blog Mashable covered the store’s digital details, in a piece on the December 2012 grand opening, including a link to the “Art of the Trench” campaign video, which features Chicagoans wearing Burberry. “How we use technology was going to be our greatest differentiator,” Ahrendts told Crain’s Chicago Business.
Growth numbers from back in 2006 provided the digital impetus. As other luxury brands turned in 12-13% growth, Burberry lagged at 1-2%, as detailed in “Burberry’s Digital Transformation,” a Capgemini Consulting interview with Ahrendts. Judging by the most recent results, the effort has been a success, with Burberry generating strong third-quarter 2012 revenue increases of 9% in total revenue and 13% in retail revenue.
The Chicago store is Burberry’s second largest in North America, and will be the first to host Burberry Bespoke trench coats. Shoppers can collaborate with store associates to design their own trench coat via iPads, which many of the store’s sales associates carry.
The Burberry partnership and in-store event added excitement to an evening of informal business and social conversations among Executives’ Club members. As my partner and I walked out into the rainy Chicago night (really), I could only imagine the dialog between Burberry and The Executives’ Club as they did the same in their classic trenches. Yes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. —Christina Canright
I know, that’s not a typical opening question. It may seem cliché, but take a minute and really consider your answer. What gives you chills or moves you when you watch it? What motivates you when you read it? What simply puts you in a better mood after hearing it? What makes you cry? What makes you laugh?
Inspiration is a quality of experience that underlines what we value and care about. It goes hand in hand with our vision for our lives and what we choose to focus on. It goes way beyond cliché if it really inspires.
Sources of inspiration, whatever they may be for you, are important because they encourage us to take risks—to do things we may be afraid to do—and to keep going when the going gets tough. They help us find ideas when we feel we have none or when we need a kick in the seat of the pants.
As a creative firm, we’re always looking for fresh ways to be inspired. About a year ago, at one of our early morning staff meetings, I showed a scene from the Kenneth Branagh movie version of Shakespeare’s Henry V. It’s the famous soliloquy where Henry, about to embark on a battle where his forces are outnumbered five to one, encourages his “band of brothers.” “This story shall the good man teach his son,” he exhorts, while inspiring their confidence in themselves.
I felt that this kind of inspiration and how it put me in a positive frame of mind, orienting me toward a vision, would do the same for others in the office. By starting off this way, our meeting ended up being more engaging than previous meetings, and more fun. Ever since, we’ve held weekly inspiration meetings. We take turns presenting something we find inspiring—discussing how it inspires us, what it means to us personally. And we often find it relates to how we approach our work. It helps us learn, grow, and most importantly, connect with a shared vision.
Our inspiration meetings help get our creative juices flowing. We like to think our ideas come not solely from inspiration, but from creating that potential to be inspired.
You don’t have to be in the creative business to be inspired, share what inspires you, or benefit from others’ inspirations. When ideas flow freely, work becomes more innovative, interesting, and efficient.
Take that extra moment today to uncover what inspires you. What do you care about? What motivates you? In the end, you will be a more interesting person, a more effective worker, and a more connected team member.
As for King Henry V and his brother warriors, they went on to win the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD with only 25 English casualties.
Creativity is thriving in the arts—and it’s not in the way you would think. Not the what, but the where: How it’s being delivered. Take the example of Yo Yo Ma and Renee Fleming performing in Chicago, last March. In a theater or auditorium? No way. In the middle of the work day, in the rotunda of the State of Illinois building in downtown Chicago—to the delight of the crowd.
In a joint community initiative between the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera, these performers—along with a chorus of high school students—delivered their music outside the traditional venues. While we have street musicians galore in Chicago—and many of them excellent—we don’t often have artists of this caliber in the day-to-day environment.
And it could be a phenomenon that’s catching on. In a public plaza in Sabadell, Spain, on May 19, there was an unexpected performance of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Even though it was highly produced and funded by Banco Sabadell—whatever the motivation, it doesn’t matter. The expressions on the faces of the onlookers are priceless.
As a blogger Trent Gilliss for “On Being” said, “…it’s the fascination and pure joy of the passersby that makes the moment magical.” I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s hope more companies that can afford to fund things like this, follow suit. A moment or two of inspiration—whether expected or not—goes a long way. And I don’t know about you, but it feeds my soul.
We at Canright Communications love discovering new music and sharing it with our friends, family, and business partners. Music can open our minds to unfamiliar emotions, different cultures, and new possibilities. We’re often listening to music while writing and designing new communications solutions for our clients. It can help us get in the zone.
Pitchfork has served as a wellspring of emerging artists for over a decade. Founded and headquartered in Chicago (just like us), the former start-up is now the leading voice in independent music. From their incisive, well-crafted reviews to their newly launched YouTube channel to the upcoming annual music festival July 13-15, Pitchfork is simultaneously criticizing, curating, and collaborating with musicians in a range of genres (and even helping to coin new ones).
While looking at the music schedule of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, we couldn’t help but notice that the set times and stages were presented in a format that is less than ideal. It’s easiest to plan out your personal schedule–and improvise while at the fest–if you have the acts lined up side-by-side. Most major fests do this, but Pitchfork does not.
Well, we just couldn’t resist, so we created a very basic schedule that you are free to download, print, mark up, and take with you to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. It has times, stages, and even some aftershows clearly laid out to help you make the best of the fest.
Today I attended Creative Mornings, which featured a talk by Scott Thomas. Creative Morningsis a monthly breakfast lecture series. The events are free of charge, feature a 20-minute talk, and even include coffee to help kick start your Friday.
Scott Thomas is a designer/developer well-known for his work with Designing Obama. He spoke about a new project he has been developing called The Noun Project. The project features an immense catalog of universal icons available for public use, and even provides cross language translation.
Creative Mornings was started in New York by Tina Roth Eisenberg (you may have heard of her blog and design studio swissmiss) who wanted to create accessible events for people to come together and become inspired.
Each Tuesday in our morning meeting, we have the chance to talk about what inspires us. We all agreed that this talk, featuring Yves Béhar and his idea of 360° design, was a great way to start the day. Check out Yves’ talk at CUSP 2011. Yves talks about asking the right questions, and how his team re-imagined something as simple as a shoe box.
Canright Communications believes that purpose and vision should drive any sales and marketing plan and project. During the Discover phase of our Canright Project Methodology, we make sure that we understand a company’s purpose, vision, and goals and how a marketing project will support them.
The primary tool at use at this initial state is the Ideal State Action Planning (ISAP) process. The ISAP process gives a concise framework and method to define the ideal and present states of a problem while suggesting pathways to make that ideal state a reality.
In practice, an ISAP is a simple process. All of the major stakeholders and members of the Canright team meet to define the vision or ideal state that a project is to achieve. Three flip charts with note takers are set up on the front of the room–one on the left labeled Present, the one in the middle labeled Pathway, and the one on the right labeled Ideal. Sometimes we use a laptop projected on the wall with a Word document divided in three columns.
We ask questions to determine where the organization wants to go as a business and with the project. We also ask questions about where things stand at present. As questions are answered, answers and observations, the note takers write on the appropriate charts.
The conversation progresses, and the present and ideal states become increasingly clear. Pathways tend to emerge, almost as if by magic.
The process takes an hour or two and results in a concrete definitions of the present state, the ideal state, and the pathways required to achieve the ideal state. The information on the flip charts, along with a transcript, serve as the basis for recommendations, proposals, and reports.
Canright conducts kick-off ISAPs for all its major projects and in initial sales meetings as a way to quickly define and determine client needs.
Here are quotes and assessments on the economy in 2010 from panelists at tonight’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology Enterprise Forum Chicago program on the Economic Outlook for 2010. Tim Curley, a financial advisor at UBS Financial Services, moderated in front of a sell-out crowd.
Bryce Bulman, Senior Vice President, PIMCO/Allianz Investment Management
“PIMCO coined an expression called ‘the new normal.’ We’re not setting to a previous mean but going into new territory. We’re not going back to 2005 or 2006.”
“There are risks. The Fed is looking to exit from the mortgage market. It put a trillion dollars in buying mortgages. What happens when the Fed doesn’t buy mortgages like they have been? It could result in better values for patient bond investors.”
Adolfo Laurenti, Senior Economist, Mesirow Financial
“We are probably going to see big (GDP growth) numbers. Why, then, are we feeling so bad?
“The numbers for growth look good on paper. Most of those growth numbers will be quarter by quarter and build off temporary factors. In the first half of the year, the stimulus package. Massive inventory rebuilding for one or two quarters.
“Very little will contribute to a sense of momentum ahead. Temporary factors will not create momentum to create jobs and thus income.”
Mark Keeley, Keeley Investment Management
“My whole thesis is patience. People get impatient especially in their investment. . . . If you’re not moving money around, you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. Sometimes the best thing is to do nothing.
“If you remember one thing from tonight, it’s the point on retirement,” Mark said, in response to a comment about the job prospects of Generation Y and the retirement prospects of the Baby Boomers.
“Retirement income and inflation are related to purchasing power. This is the key point. When you stop working, you have to make money on your money. Your number is purchasing power and in an inflationary cycle it will be scary. That’s the real wild card. When we print all this money, there are repercussions.”
Angela Librizzi, Regional Director, Goldman Sachs Asset Management
The Goldman Sachs forecast is not optimistic and fraught with dangers but also hidden opportunities. “We need 100,000 new jobs to stay flat and 250,000 to decrease unemployment by 1%. We have a ways to go.
“Now that the economy is more normalized, we will see a dispersion of high quality and low quality. You’re always better off in quality. Owning good businesses is where you will win in 2010.”
That’s because the fundamentals of human capital and creativity in the United States remain sound. As Mark Keeley put it:
“We’re the greatest innovators in the history of the world. The Chinese are the greatest imitators in the history of the world. The Indians are poor, smart and hungry, and that’s what we learned to be, but they learned bureaucracy from the English.”
We always get a number of lovely holiday cards—some are pop-ups, some have some really beautiful illustrations on the front. But, from a marketing perspective, the ones that stood out this year for us were the ones that were unusual and highly creative. Innotech Benefit Solutions sent us a card with the word JOY on the cover, with the O being the image of their logo. Our staff was delighted, since it got our attention, yet wasn’t commercial-feeling. It felt joyful and gave us the impression of a company that loves what they do. The other card that got our attention was from a friend at JP Morgan Compensation and Benefit Strategies. They took a humorous take on the iphone and its many apps. Each app on the card identified a person at the firm: our friend Tom had the “Caroling Buddy” app, while other colleagues were identified with apps such as “Toast Giver,” “Snowball Pitcher,” and “Festive Tie Wearer,” among others. The message on the front: “Holiday apps you may find useful…(and inside) “in addition to all the special gifts we bring you the rest of the year.” Acknowledging the business aspect, yet creative, warm and tasteful. Who ever said financial and benefits people weren’t creative? —Christina
My husband and I have declared this to be the Year of Writing—capturing our thoughts, sharing ideas, connecting with old and new friends and acquaintances, and discovering more about what’s going on around us. Collin sent me Steve Rubel’s, “Correspond to Connect,” which seemed to be in line with what we were thinking—with Steve putting it more in terms of a social media perspective.
Here is what he said on writing every day: “This year, vow not to lose sight of the art and importance of daily correspondence. Reach out to new people—even those you don’t agree with or those in other countries. Solicit and share new ideas.” This seems to be what social media is all about: connecting ideas, words, observations, and things I care about that someone else might care about too.
Writing is one of those activities that, when beginning it, I rarely know what is going to pour out. Things flow from my fingers that I didn’t know I cared about. A wonderful way for me to know more about me.